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Precise GIS data: Now what?

Jeff Caldwell 06/05/2012 @ 1:56pm Multimedia Editor for Agriculture.com and Successful Farming magazine.

"I have all this data, so now what can I do with it?"

That's a familiar question for John Fulton. The Auburn University Extension ag and biosystems engineer says he works with farmers all the time who have been collecting precise field data with the ultimate goal of making better crop management decisions. But, though the original question's fairly common, the answer isn't.

"This question is somewhat loaded since there is no silver bullet answer," Fulton says. "We have seen several Alabama farmers collecting spatial data then analyzing it to assist with making management decisions. However, each of their approaches to deriving answers or ideas is different but successful. One common attribute is while these farmers put spatial data to work for them, they are not afraid to try new ideas with possible negative results; they are always wanting to learn what works or not while striving to increase profitability."

It's best to start with your goals. Then, Fulton says it's important to identify whether you'll want or need a 3rd party involved to keep your data managed and analyzed correctly. If so, that doesn't mean it's hands-off for the farmer.

"Someone from the farm must be involved in this process since no one knows the land and cropping system better than a farmer," Fulton says.

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